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Exploring Country Through Art with Zac Bennett-Brook

Exploring Country Through Art with Zac Bennett-Brook
Zac Bennett-Brook is a Contemporary Artist, Surfer, and Indigenous man of Torres Strait Islander ancestry born and raised in Wollongong on Dharawal Country. We visited his local surf spot to chat about his connection to Country, art as meditation, and his pre-work rituals.

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Hi Zac! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

I’m Zac, a contemporary artist, surfer, and Indigenous man of Torres Strait Islander ancestry born and raised in Wollongong - which is Dharawal Country. I paint full-time on a range of different mediums from surfboards to large scale murals and everything in between.

What inspired you to pursue a career as an artist?

I have always been creative and never one for a typical 9-5 job. I studied at Uni and graduated as a High School PDHPE Teacher but decided I wanted to chase my art dreams and turn them into a reality. I loved the freedom and ability of self-expression which comes with art and that was something which really excited me.
Recreate the look with the Standard Tee in Grey Marle and the Standard Jean in Washed Black.

In what ways does your work seek to explore or depict your connection with Country and your love of the ocean?

As an Indigenous man, I have a strong connection to the land and ocean around me. I try to reflect the natural environment through my works organic and smooth flowing designs/patterns whilst also conveying personal messages and themes. A lot of my works are painted in a variety of blue tones, and I think its that subconscious connection to the water that makes me feel calm and relaxed.

Your work is exceptionally detailed with strong bursts of colour and symmetry, can you tell us about the painting techniques you use and their significance?

I love colour and detail, so I try to include as much within my works so when you look at an artwork you can take in many of the different sections. Normally when I’m creating my works grow and take shape pretty naturally with the lines and shapes flowing organically, not really having a starting or finishing point.

How is each piece conceptualised, do you plan your artworks?

Every design is a little different, sometimes I might do a little rough sketch beforehand that could be reflecting a pattern I have seen in nature from the sand, or on the beach - even the way bark sits on a tree. These little sketches allow me to make sure it's going to flow nicely and not be too cluttered or over-detailed in a specific area of the artwork. For the most part, I’ll have a concept or idea in my head and just start painting what I visualise and feel.

How do you inspire creativity in your life, any pre-work rituals you practice?

Getting out in nature or the water definitely allows me to soak up my surroundings which inspires me. I also listen to a lot of music while I work which I love to do and this is something which definitely helps get the creativity happening. A good coffee or two is also a must.

An art practice is inherently meditative, often creating a sense of stillness in the body and mind. How does your art-making affect your sense of self and do you see it as an act of self-care?

When I paint it's very meditative, I get really in tune with what I’m creating, and although I’ll have music playing I definitely get a soothing feeling when I paint. I paint so frequently and although it is my job it always has that calming effect. 

Where do you see your practice moving towards?

I’m currently really enjoying adding some newer elements within my works such as more line work and experimenting with different colours. It's always nice finding something new which clicks/works for you. Looking deeper into and around the natural environment is something I definitely see myself doing more to gain new ideas and inspiration. 

What are you working on right now, any upcoming projects you can share with us?

I’m one of those people who constantly have a few different projects on the go - which is how I like it! I have a few new murals lined up I’m looking forward to completing, some collaborative projects with different artists where we will be combining our styles together and a few private commissions. Lots of fun things which allow me to keep creating!

Tell us about your local, where are your favourite places to surf?

My local surf spot would be North or South beach in Wollongong. I’m kinda a lazy surfer at times so South beach is perfect where I can walk out along the rocks, jump in and be out in the line-up rather then paddling out. However I have moved in the last 12 months so I have been surfing out at Towradgi a little more lately. As long as I can get out in the water and score a wave or two I’ll be happy.

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